Officials from the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Center said that the Jeong Woo 2 sent out distress call at around 3 am on Wednesday as it was burning in the frozen water around 3,700 kilometers from New Zealand.
The fishing boat started to sink while still burning later the same day, the report said.
Two other South Korean boats in the area managed to save 37 people from the 40-member crew.
“The three missing sailors, all of whom are Vietnamese, are believed to have died in a cabin where they were sleeping when the fire broke out,” Woo Suk-dong, the South Korean consul in New Zealand, told Yonhap News Agency.
Yet Woo said a search for the fishermen was underway.
Among the rescued fishermen were six South Koreans and 31 people from Indonesia, China, Russia and Vietnam. Six of the 31 were injured in the fire. Two of them were severely burned, The Korea Times said in a report.
The Nathaniel B. Palmer, a US research vessel, is going to collect the fishermen and take them to land, according to the New Zealand rescue center.
According to the center, the fire started in the vessel’s accommodation block. The exact cause of the fire remains unknown.
Dave Wilson, an official at the center, said in The Korea Times report that the fire was “out of control.” Wilson said the weather in the area is clear, with light winds.
An AFP report said the Jeong Woo 2 measured 51 meters long was built in Japan in 1985 and registered in Busan. The long-liner has a gross registered tonnage of 489 and can carry up to 2.749 tons of catch.
Last month, the Sparta fishing boat from Russia was also stuck in the frozen waters with 32 crew members for 12 days, according to a local report on Tuoi Tre.
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